Defining Cyber Crimes: A Guide to Digital Offenses


The origin of many cyber crimes started in the real world, but the growing use of technology in the U.S. has created opportunities for the advancement of old techniques.

Cyber Bullying

With the increased use of technology, bullying has spread from the confines of a playground and made its way into target’s pockets. Most victims of cyber bullying are teenagers, and public awareness of the issue has risen in recent years, partially due to high-profile cases of suicides.

  • Invasion of Privacy: Not solely a cyber-related crime, invasion of privacy in regards to cyber bullying gained a lot of media attention after the 2010 suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi following public viewings of a private encounter filmed without his knowledge. Invasion of privacy can involve recordings or public viewings put together without the recorded party’s knowledge or consent. Other cases involve “leaked” sex tapes or nude photos that can also be used as blackmail against the targets.
  • Cyberstalking: While anyone could be a potential target of cyberstalking, most cases involve public personalities, current or former romantic partners, and women. Some of the more recent high-profile cases involve female game developers following the Gamergate controversy, with online users targeting individuals as a mob.

Cyber Fraud

With the increased accessibility provided by the internet, thieves have moved on from hitting banks to hitting individuals directly. If you aren’t careful, one wrong email can lead to a drained bank account or a stolen identity.

  • Advance-fee scam: This is one of the most common scams populating email inboxes across the country, and involves the promise of significant shares of some “inaccessible” sum of money. In return, all the target needs to do is invest a small up-front payment. In some cases the scammer will send further requests for money, citing complications that prevent their access to the funds they’re hoping to share, or in others they will simply disappear.
  • Identity theft: While identity theft isn’t an exclusively online crime, the internet has increased the risk surrounding it. Scammers will often target sensitive information like Social Security numbers, Medicare numbers, addresses, birth certificates, financial account numbers, and passwords. Physical documents are often the targets of real-world theft, but cyber attempts to steal information through emails asking for sensitive information. Most websites have disclaimers stating they will never ask for that kind of information outside of specific pages on their websites.
  • “Account suspension”: Often used to target sites like PayPal, the scammer will send an official-sounding email claiming that your account is at risk of being suspended or terminated unless you enter your username and password in an unofficial webpage. Most websites, including PayPal, have pages dedicated to dealing with potential scammers and prominently display disclaimers stating that they will never ask for sensitive information like passwords, bank accounts, or credit cards

Cyber Sex Crimes

While there are cases of legal adults being the target of cyber sex crimes, most cases involve adults targeting minors. While a large portion of these crimes are deliberate, there are cases of underage individuals sending explicit photos to each other that are later either discovered by a parent or distributed throughout a school. In these cases, even if the party with the explicit photos is also underage, they may be in trouble with the law for possession of child pornography.

  • Child pornography: Given the illegal nature and social taboos surrounding child pornography, and the anonymity the internet can provide, the majority of activity in this area occurs online. A major issue for law enforcement attempting to crack down on sites that distribute child pornography is international law. Because servers can be hosted in countries across the globe and different countries have different laws regarding child pornography, it may be impossible to completely shut down offending sites.
  • Sexual solicitations: Underage solicitations are a big enough issue to warrant a reality TV show based around tricking and detaining predators. Unlike the cases featured in ‘To Catch A Predator,’ not all cases of sexual solicitation include real-world meetups. Some occur entirely online, often in chat rooms.

If you have been arrested or charged with committing a cyber crime in Ohio, contact Koffel Brininger Nesbitt today for a confidential case evaluation. Our offices are located in Columbus, OH, but we represent clients statewide, and are regarded as one of the leading criminal law firms in Ohio. Don’t wait to get the representation you need to defend yourself in court.